Republican House Leaders Want Farm Bill to Reduce Regulatory Barriers Faced by Hemp Growers

Republican leaders in the house have presented a draft version of a large-scale agriculture bill that could decrease regulatory barriers for some hemp farmers and curtail a ban on industry participation by individuals with previous drug felony convictions. The bill is notably silent on provisions that would ban cannabinoid products derived from hemp.

The House Agriculture Committee released the draft farm bill last week, building upon the federal legalization of hemp in several ways. The current draft revises hemp’s definition, establishing different categories for industrial hemp producers who grow the crop for grain, oil, fiber and seed not intended for consumption and producers who cultivate it for cannabinoid extraction for animal and human consumption.

Under the draft measure, parties licensed as producers of industrial hemp will see decreased regulatory restrictions, with the federal agriculture department, Indian tribes and states being empowered to authorize performance-based sampling techniques and visual inspections for purposes of compliance.

However, farmers cultivating hemp to extract cannabinoids for animal or human consumption will continue to undergo more rigorous lab testing and inspections as stipulated in the previous farm bill. Additionally, the draft measure will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to independently accredit labs to carry out sample testing. This will help sort out barriers that have troubled the industry for a while now.

Currently, farmers are required by law to have their products tested by laboratories certified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”).

The draft measure would also allow states, the federal agriculture department and tribal entities to decide whether they would like to eliminate a current policy that prevents individuals with felony drug convictions in the last decade from receiving licenses to produce industrial hemp.

The revised testing and inspection provisions were loosely based on a bipartisan measure introduced in 2023 by Representatives Chrissy Houlahan and Matt Rosendale.

In addition to the above provisions, the draft measure also includes a clause stipulating that businesses that deliberately misrepresent themselves as producers of industrial hemp shall not be eligible to take part in a program established under the measure for a five-year period.

A separate component of the measure would also bar agencies in states from refusing to provide public-assistance benefits to individuals with felony drug convictions.

Cannabis regulators in states have also proposed that the agriculture bill be updated with provisions that make clear the states’ rights to enact their own regulations for hemp-based intoxicating cannabinoids.

The unregulated market is a growing concern, with stakeholders in the hemp industry pointing out the need to address issues associated with it as it continues to grow as a result of hemp being legalized by the federal government.

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